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Japanese lesson 5: Basics 1 part 3

Vocabulary: Tango: たんご: 単語

Eat: Taberu: たべる: 食べる

The: (Like "a" and "an" "the" doesn't exist in Japanese.)

Bread: Pan: パン (this is a loan word, so it's written in Katakana)

Drink (verb): Nomu: のむ: 飲む

Water: Mizu: みず: 水


Okay. We're going to learn a little bit about verbs today. Our verbs are "Taberu" and "Nomu". Right now they are in "Dictionary Form". Technically speaking you can use these verbs in the form their in, but they're informal. So, like, for friends and family members it's fine. Some other native speakers may not mind either, but you'll be a lot better off if you properly conjugate them. Tenses:

Japanese has a couple of different verb conjugations, but the verbs DO NOT conjugate depending on who you're talking about. EG: It doesn't change for "I", "He/she/it", "they", "you", "you (plural)", etc. So you don't have to worry about that.

For right now you'll be dealing with past, present, and future tense. ... which isn't true. Duolingo's レッスン3 (lesson 3)... and a few more lessons past this one... don't even touch past tense. But I'll explain it to you anyway.

So first and foremost. Japanese actually only has 2 tenses. Present and future are mashed together in to one tense.

There's also a continuing action tense... which can be percieved as a present tense of sorts... but it's got some rules and conditions and doesn't apply right this second. So we'll be covering that later.

So back to Past and Present/future tense.

Past tense is "-mashita"

Present/Future tense is "-masu"

Those two are positive endings. They mean you did or are going to do an action. But what if you want to say you didn't or are NOT going to do an action? There are conjugations for those too!

Past negative: "-masendeshita"

Present/Future negative: "-masen"

But before you can tack these on to the end of your verbs you have to manipulate your verbs a little bit depending on how it's dictionary form ends.

There are 3 kinds of verbs.

RU verbs (aka "iru" "eru" verbs)

like the name states these are verbs that end in "ru" (rather 'iru' and 'eru' but I remember them as simply 'ru' verbs)

To conjugate these verbs just pull "ru" off the end and replace it with "-masu", "-mashita", "-masen", or "-masendeshita"

Our lesson today has a "ru" verb. So to conjugate "Taberu" to "eating" "will eat" we remove the "ru" and add "-masu"

Taberu → Tabe → Tabemasu ✓

To change it to "ate" we use the same basic process

Taberu → Tabe → tabemashita

"Didn't eat"

Taberu → Tabe → tabemasendeshita

"Am not eating"/"Will not eat"

Taberu → Tabe → tabemasen

-U verbs

These are verbs that end in any consonant with a "u" vowel after it. EG: ku, su, bu, mu, etc.

For these, you replace the "-u" sylable with an "-i" sylable from the same family... if that makes sense. so:

ku → ki

su → shi

bu → bi

mu → mi

Once you've done that you can add "-mashita" or "-masu" Lucky for us, we have one of these verbs in this lesson too! "Nomu"

Nomu → Nomi → Nomimasu (drink/drinks/drinking)

Nomu → Nomi → Nomimashita (drank)

Nomu → Nomi → Nomimasen (am not drinking/will not drink)

Nomu → Nomi → Nomimasendeshita (didn't drink)

There are also Hiragana U verbs (tsu verbs as well) and Ireggulars. But I don't want to overwhelm you with grammar right now and what we've covered will get you through this lesson. So again, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!

Let's go ahead and work on sentences now. :)


I eat: Watashi wa tabemasu: わたし は たべます: 私は食べます。

We continue to use "wa" 「は」as our particle because the action "eat" (taberu) is not happening to "I". Rather "I" is doing the action.

Yum accidental bad English.

Also remember! You don't HAVE to use pronouns if it's not absolutely necessary so we can remove "Watashi wa" entirely and still have a grammatically correct... erm... sentence...

I eat: tabemasu: たべます: 食べます

She drinks: Kanojo wa nomimasu: かのじょ は のみます: 彼女は飲みます

The man drinks: Otoko wa nomimasu: おとこ は のみます: 男は飲みます

The girl eats: Joshi wa tabemasu: じょし は たべます: 女子は食べます

She eats an apple: kanojo wa ringo o tabemasu: かのじょ は りんご を たべます: 彼女はりんごを食べます

NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHING!! This is the particle を (wo) sounds like "oh" when it's a particle.

This particle marks objects that are having an action PHYSICALLY acted upon it by a known subject.

This is opposed to "ga" 「が」which marks objects that aren't having an action physically acted upon it... more on that later.

In this case we have "She". "She" is not having an action done to it, but is doing an action, so it gets the partical "Wa" 「は」

The "apple" is physically being acted upon by "she" so it gets the particle "o" を

Then your verb goes on the end.

She eats an apple.

She (wa) apple (o) eats.

Kanojo wa ringo o tabemasu.

かのじょ は りんご を たべます


I eat an apple: Watashi wa ringo o tabemasu: わたし は りんご を たべます: 私はりんごを食べます。


I eat an apple: Ringo o tabemasu: りんご を たべます: りんごを食べます。

He drinks water: Kare wa mizu o nomimasu: かれ は みず を のみます: 彼は水を飲みます。

The boy eats bread: Danshi wa pan o tabemasu: だんし は パン を たべます: 男子はパンを食べます。

The woman drinks water: Onna wa mizu o nomimasu: おんな は みず を のみます: 女は水を飲みます。

I think that will keep you busy for a while. @_@ This lesson had a ton of information in it. ^^; I hope your heads aren't spinning!!

(gack! The English for Japanese speakers chains verbs in some example sentences, too. If no one minds I'm not going to teach that right now. This lesson is plenty long enough. If you want to learn it before I get to it you can find a lesson here by Maggie Sensei. Truth be told I'm going to have to learn it too. m( )m ゴメンナサイ )

Happy Learning!

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March 6, 2015



That's the grammar we would learn from 10 weeks of school Japanese, good job


May I suggest for を writing it consistently as either o or wo. I found the sentences swapping between the two quite... jarring. :P


Oh. O_O Yeah sorry my bad. x_x I've been trying to keep it consistantly as "o" for pronunciation purposes... but it's force of habit to write it as "wo" ... I'll fix that right away. I have the same problem with ha/wa

** Fixed. :)


I suspect Japanese's verb gravitates more towards aspect than tense. Is it?

ASPECT refers to how an event or action is to be viewed with respect to time, rather than to its actual location in time [which TENSE is].


Sounds about right. I've never heard of Aspect before. So that's a new term for me! Thank you!


Could you explain a bit more? The distinction is not making it through my skull.

  • Grammatical Tense refers when an event or action occurred in time (some time ago, weeks ago, in present, in the future, etc.)

  • Grammatical Aspect refers to how an event or action is viewed in time (completed, in progress, about to start, habitual, etc.)

Most Indo-european languages merges the concept of tense and aspect, hence the confusion. Some languages, like Tagalog, uses grammatical aspect, relying on adverbs to convey when the action occurred.


Perfect, thank you. :)


So can we use pronouns in sentences? My Japanese teacher always told us to never use them and to refer to people by their names+san, chan, kun, etc. I see it being acceptable in the English for Japanese speakers course though.

Similar case with その, the Japanese for English speakers has it as 'the'. However I've never used it for that purpose.


You can, however it is definitely an "only if absolutely necessary" sort of thing. Like changing the subject of a sentence from one person to another. You do want to use pronouns as LITTLE as possible though, favoring a person's name over "You" "He" "she" or "they". Though you can probably use pronouns a little more liberally with friends and family than with people you don't really know.

Can anyone who's more familiar with Japanese society and culture expand on this, please? :)

You know, I've noticed that the English for Japanese speakers tree uses "Sono" as "the" and it's pretty strange to me because I know "Sono" as "That". Before now I'd never seen "Sono" used as "The" and so I tend to just avoid the article as a whole.


It's true that we Japanese prefer addressing others by their names rather than with pronouns, especially when we're young, but what happens even more often is that we'd omit it completely whenever possible without confusion.

  • Japanese: 明日パーティーするんだ、来ない?
  • Word-by-word: Tomorrow-party-will do, not come?
  • Actually: I am having a party tomorrow, won't you come?

As for the その, I'll copypaste what I've written before in the JA-EN forum :

We have four groups of demonstrative pronouns, or to make it precise every category of Japanese demonstrative pronoun has four variations depending on the distance of the object. They are called こそあど言葉 which originates from the initial letters of the four groups.

  • Group こ represented by これ and この is for objects close to the speaker, either mentally or physically. It is almost equivalent to this or these.

  • Group そ represented by それ and その is for (1) objects far from the speaker and close to the listener, (2) something the speaker assumes to be in the listener's mind or (3) something that has just been mentioned in the conversation. (1) and (2) correspond to that or those while (3) is the.

  • Group あ represented by あれ and あの is for objects remote from both the speaker and listener. They could also be that or those.

  • Group ど represented by どれ and どの is actually the interrogative pronoun.

And yep, we don't accept the translations この or あの for "the", because though it could make sense depending on the context, it's more likely that the person is simply confused rather than having good imaginations...


You know, I've noticed that the English for Japanese speakers tree uses "Sono" as "the" and it's pretty strange to me because I know "Sono" as "That". Before now I'd never seen "Sono" used as "The" and so I tend to just avoid the article as a whole.

Did you too get これ, それ, あれ as this, that, and that over there? :P

In German you can often use the word for the to mean that, and in fact once upon a time in English we also didn't have a word meaning that, the and that were both the for different grammatical genders (c.f. Dutch de and het), so I wonder if that's where they took inspiration from?

BTW I'd never come across it prior to the reverse course either.


No. They really only use "Sono" in the lessons. I've tried to use "Kono" and "ano" in my answers and I've gotten them wrong that way. :C

I suspect Kore, Sore, and Are would be the same.

:D I didn't know that about German and English though!


Oh, in that case the boring details are that it's goes all the way back to Old English in which the was derived from se (masculine), and that derived from þæt (neuter). There was also sēo (feminine).


Hello, me again, I just really enjoy this course and to make sure I have more questions :) So, I made up some complex sentences (for lesson three level) And I wonder if they are correct.

I eat apple and bread. Watashi wa ringo to pan o tabemasu

Did she drink water? Kanojo wa mizu o nomimashita ka?

Is it correct to use ka and to like this?


Those are correct yes.

I will be covering how to create questions after the colors section. ^_^ So keep on the look out for it.

and then I'll be covering compound sentences right after that.


Do you know if there is any grammatical purpose for the ending particles よ、ね、わ、ぞ、ぜ、な (yo, ne, wa, zo, ze, na)? From how I hear them, I assume they serve only to put 'sass' or emotion into the sentence, and are usually used with informal or semi-formal Japanese.

Ex: 人生は面白いです(よ) (jinsei wa omoshiroi desu [yo]: life is interesting). Without the よ, the sentence is still correct.

Ex: 私の妹は優等生だ(ね) (watashi no imōto wa yuutōsei da [ne]: my little sister is an honor student). This is informal, hence why だ is used instead of です (だ is plain form).

Ex: 君のお父さんを殺したの(わ) (kimi no otōsan o koroshita no [wa]: I killed your father). This is VERY informal, but if you killed someone's father and are telling them about it, I doubt that using formalities will do anything to lighten the situation.

So as a rule of thumb, should one avoid using these optional particles, since they are leaning towards informal speech?


In a way they're sort of sass particles, yes. So you would use them in more relaxed situations. They're like the english sentence enders: "huh?" "don't'cha think?" etc. ... kind of like that, anyway, because English doesn't HAVE an equivalent to some of these:

よ = "!!"
"yo" is like an exclamation point, sort of like how か works like a question mark. It emphasizes your excitement about a thing. So for your example 「人生は面白いですよ。」It would translate as "Life is interesting!!"

ね = "huh?" "don't'cha think?" "isn't it?" "right?"
Basically it turns the sentence into a question. "ne" indicates that the speaker sort of wants the listener's input. So your example sentence is a little strange. The sentence 「私の妹は優等生だね」would read as "My little sister is an honor student, huh?" ... well okay I guess in certain circumstances it may work. More commonly you may hear 「いいですね。」"It's nice, isn't it?"/"It's nice right?"/"it's nice, huh?". Ne also has some other uses as an end particle (I guess) but that's the one I'm most familiar with.

わ = ... I couldn't find anything definitive on this one... besides it being a more feminine ending. Some people say it softens the sentence that precedes it... others claim it's used sort of like "ne" ... mostly I get the gist it's used by females almost exclusively. does anyone else have an understanding of this particle usage by any chance?

My general understanding about ぜ and ぞ is that they're masculine and quite harsh endings. They're stuck on the end of your sentence to make you sound tough or like you're going to kick someone's ass so to speak.

Before I continue that thought... funny thing... if I speak Japanese in my natural American English voice I tend to slip automatically into rude slang. "Ze"s "Temae"s "Yaro"s and "cch"s abound! XD It's uncontrollable. I literally CANNOT speak politely with my regular voice.

So anyway, let me look up some proper explanation...

"The final particle ぞ (zo) usually used by males Zo is a very powerful and very crude expression used almost exclusively by men to add emphasis and force to the sentence . It is quite rude and only used in very informal situations" ~ Let's Learn Japanese Facebook ... hey! That's the page I was an admin on... before I deleted my FB account. XD I haven't been re-instated... yet. (I was just clicking links that looked like they'd help...)

"The final particle ぜ (ze) Ze, much like zo, is quite rude and almost exclusively used by men. The difference between them is that ze is a bit friendlier and can be used with hortative verb forms, which is not possible with zo. Neither of them can be used with imperatives." ~ Let's Learn Japanese Facebook

If my understanding of the word "hortative" is correct... that means it's sort of used like "ne" XD I'm not good with grammatical terms.

And finally な ... it's like "ne" but more manly. XD Like "Dove soap for MEN" sort of thing.same product different package.

I'd check out that Let's Learn Japanese Facebook page they've got some others in there you didn't list. :) I hope that cleared some things up though!


It is very similar to Turkish, and it seems pretty easy to me! 2 alphabets are also okay for me but for Kanji I don't know I still don't understand the logic of it and I don't understand how you combine three alphabet together? To be a real japanese speaker/reader I should know kanji but how???


Kanji (eventually) makes things easier to read. They shorten the words and to a certain degree make it so you can sight read quickly. They're also excellent for splitting up sentences into comprehensible words... because Japanese doesn't use spaces. Also they're great for telling apart homophones.
So a sentence looks like this: 私の猫は牛乳を飲みます。 Versus

See, shorter. 私 = I,  猫 = Cat、 牛乳 = Milk 飲みます = Drink, so more or less you can just instantly read if you recognize the symbol instead of trying to split apart the jumble of Hiragana.

For the Alphabets: Hiragana: (the loopy one) ひらがな ← Is for native Japanese words only. Small Hiragana is placed over Kanji in writing aimed at a younger audience... making it so even if you don't know the Kanji, you can still read the word.

Katakana: (the more jagged one) カタカナ ← Is for BORROWED or FOREIGN words. NOT native Japanese words. Things like パン "Pan" (bread) コンピュータ ”Konpyu-ta" (Computer)and サンドイッチ ”Sandoicchi" (Sandwich)

Kanji: (the complicated one/ Chinese characters) 漢字 ← Kanji are symbols borrowed from China. One... or two Kanji will generally make up one word. But is usually much shorter than their hiragana counterpart. Kanji is also good for telling apart homophones at first glance:

Hashi: はし
橋 = Bridge 端 = Edge 箸 = Chopsticks

Learning Kanji is simply a matter of memorization. Some come quicker than others, don't worry, you'll eventually get it. I didn't think I would either.

You don't have to have a Kanji memorized to the point that you can write it perfect stroke for stroke, just well enough that if you see it you can go "Oh this shape means this".

If you need, there are places out there like Kanji Damage that will teach you the radicals (smaller kanji that make up a big kanji EX: 木+木+木=森) and then expand on them with little stories and mnemonics so that you can write (and hopefully read) them.

人(person) + 母(mother) = 毎 (every)
Mnemonic: EVERY person has a mother

桜蘭高校 ← Here's a Big scary Kanji for you!

桜 蘭 高 校
(Sakura) (Orchard) (tall) (school)



Ouran Highschool

桜蘭高校 ホスト 
Ouran high school host

Ouran high school host club


Okay, thank you! But do some words have precedence for writing in Kanji? I mean does it really matter what word I choose to write in Kanji or not. Can I write milk in kanji and hiragana for example and in the texts that I read does it change? Or milk is always with kanji for example? I wonder this. Can I write watashi in kanji characters? And is kanji is same as the chinese words? So will I know some chinese as well or not? And last question! Is Kanji only used for Hiragana words or also Katakana words?


It's sort of random what words have Kanji and what words don't. For instance "Watashi" (I) Has a Kanji, but "anata" (you) does not.

Generally speaking, if a word has a Kanji, and you know that Kanji, you will ALWAYS want to write the word as Kanji. ALWAYS.

If you don't know, or you're not sure about the Kanji, go ahead and write it in Hiragana.

Straight Hiragana is used for children who are just beginning to read. Games like Hamtaro are full Hiragana, no Kanji.

Hiragana with SOME Kanji is used for older kids. I'd say between mid elementary to High School. In games like Pokemon, when set to Kanji, I've noticed that some words I actually KNOW the Kanji for are written in Hiragana instead. Which means the target audience is pre-teen and under.

Full Kanji... which still has lots of hiragana in it... is written so that EVERY word that has a Kanji uses that Kanji This is for High school level through adulthood. To be about at this level you would need to know over 2,000 Kanji.

Most of the difference being... that straight Hiragana (like reading straight romaji) becomes frustrating, slow, and even slightly infuriating as you become able to read at a higher and higher level.

In your case alternating back and forth between Kanji and Hiragana willy nilly is going to become confusing... if you write "Haru" as Kanji in one sentence: 春 and in hiragana in the next はる, people reading will wonder if it's even the same word... it's confusing.

-you just had to pick milk as an example didn't you-
Generally speaking, again, if a word has a Kanji it will ALWAYS be written with Kanji unless it's aimed at a younger age group.

But here you chose milk as an example. 牛乳 is the symbol for milk, however the loan word ミルク (miruku) is becoming more and more prominent... in this case you will see both.... and actually you may see ミルク more. But most words are NOT like this.

Watashi = 私 (Kanji)

Japanese and Chinese share a writing system. This would be Kanji (Japanese) and Hanzi (Chinese) HOWEVER, they DO NOT share the same sounds, and sometimes not even the same meanings. For example:

Chinese: 我 = Wo = I Japanese: 我 = Ware = I (archaic)

In Japanese 我 is no longer used to mean "I", instead 私 (watashi) is the common word/Kanji. Now a-days you'll only see 我 in 我々(ware ware) which means "we"

Chinese: 先生 = Xiānshēng = Mister / Mr. Japanese: 先生 = Sensei = Teacher

So in Theory... yeah sure you could probably understand SOME Chinese if you knew Kanji... but in practice, no not really. Think of it sort of like... the difference between English and... well a lot of Western languages... But I can't expect you to read and understand, say, German, just because they both share a writing system and a handfull of words can I?

Kanji is only used for Hiragana words.

Because Hiragana is only for NATIVE Japanese words.

Katakana is for foreign words. Foreign words have no Kanji counterparts. They're borrowed words for words that the Japanese don't have.


Hello! For the Tabemasen/Tabemasu I mean present tense, is it both future and present continuous or also present simple like eat/don't eat? And don't they have was doing, have done, had done, command and that kinda stuff? And also for mashita- masen -masendeshita can you write them in japanese script both hiragan an kanji please I want to be sure that I earn correct :) Thank you, You are awesome!


It's both future and present simple. ... and actually can be used as present continuous in relaxed settings.

Continuous action form (which is mentioned in a few lessons) would make "taberu" into "Tabeteimasu"

For now we're only focusing on present form for these lessons... as per Duolingo's tree. The others will be covered (and some have been) as you move along. However I'll go ahead and tell you them anyway.

Was doing, have done, had done are ALL the same word. In this case you'd be using "suru" する and it would be conjugated to past positive form "Shimashita" しました。

For Eat:
Was eating, have eaten, had eaten
Romaji: Tabemashita
Katakana: たべました
Kanji: 食べました

  • masu = ます
  • mashita = ました
  • masen = ません
  • masendeshita = ませんでした

Verb endings (masu, mashita, masen, masendeshita, te, teiru, etc.) don't have Kanji forms. They're written in Hiragana only.

Command form, or Te-form, is covered later, the end of the verb is taken off (some rules are involved) and replaced with "te" and that creates the command form.


Okay have gone and had gone may not be used, but was going is definetley needed to express some cases! :(


"Iku" is in the verbs lesson.

Iku means "go"

Have gone = Ikimashita = いきました = 行きました
Had gone = Ikimashita = いきました = 行きました

Was going ... "I was going out to eat" or something like that? Or as in you were intending to do something but something else came up?

Either way both require some hefty grammar

"Was going" WITHOUT INTENT (like you were going out to eat) would be:

Ni iku = にいく = に行く

So like "I was going out to eat" would be "tabe ni ikiteita" 「たべにいきっていた」「食べ行っていた」

"was going" as in you were going to do something but something else came up... is an entirely different animal in an of itself and requires a hefty amount of grammar (and some backwards thinking)

So if you want to say "I was going to go, but (X happened)" you'd say "(X happened) therefore I didn't go"

" (X happened) node ikimasendeshita"
「(X Happened) ので いきませんでした」
「(X Happened)ので行きませんでした」
Literally: "(x happened) therefore didn't go"

So say you were going to go to the beach but it was cloudy, you'd first have to flip around the sentence so that it's the cause first, and the effect second:

It was cloudy therefore, I didn't go to the beach.
Kumotte iru node, umi ni ikimasendeshita.
くもって いる ので うみ に いきませんでした。
Lit: "Cloudy is therefore, beach to didn't go"

  • Credit to Barron's Japanese Grammar book 2nd edition.
    I suck at compound sentences and was not up to making up my own.

For more on compound sentences check out this lesson by Tae Kim

Pay close attention to the nuances in the things you mean to convey with a phrase. Like in this case "Was going" can mean a couple of different things, and even though in English we use the same phrase, in other languages they may use ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SENTENCE STRUCTURES!! It's kind of terrifying. This is also why you should ALWAYS check the definition of a word on BOTH SIDES of a language dictionary. :)


I can't recommend these lessons enough! I've gone through several beginner courses and they mostly rely on memorization instead of explaining the conjugation properly. The first time I've seen a plain "-ru" verb in a real sentence I panicked as this form was never mentioned in any of the lessons before.


:) I'm glad my lessons have helped you so much! Also be sure to check out my resources if you haven't already, there's a lot of good stuff in there to supplement between me posting lessons. ^_^ They're all the sources I used when I was learning. <3 But thank you again!!


Since I'm a English Speaker, Japanese Grammar makes no sense. xD


Thank you so much for this


thank you so much for doing this, these lessons make it so much easier :D

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